Sta. Rosa, Laguna—This is one tournament Sung Hyun Park expects not to lose.
A day after emerging as the world No. 1 following her victory in the Women’s World Championship last Sunday, the Korean ace flaunts her world-class skills here, her sights trained on marking her rise to the top with a victory in the first $100,000 The Country Club Ladies Invitational beginning today (Wednesday) at the wind-raked TCC layout.
Her early clash with Filipina LPGA Tour campaigner Dottie Ardina and top amateur and reigning Asian Games gold medalist Yuka Saso should stir up interest although a lot of aces are raring to sneak into early contention and get a piece of the spotlight.
They include TLPGA stalwarts Babe Liu, Hsin Lee, Tzu-Chi Lin, Ching Huang and Chia Pei Lee, former LPGT winners from Thailand, led by multi-titled Yupaporn Kawinpakorn, Ploychompoo Wilairungrueng, Saruttaya Ngam-usawan, Renuka Suksukont and Wannasiri Sirisampant and local talents in Princess Superal, Pauline del Rosario, Cyna Rodriguez and Chihiro Ikeda.
Park, the new Solaire Resort & Casino brand ambassador who conducted a clinic among amateurs and pros alike after arriving from Singapore Monday, Ardina and Saso slug it out on No. 1 at 11:40 a.m. when playing conditions are expected to be hot and windy.
The two-time Major champion also top-billed yesterday’s pro-am tournament where she played the Tom Weiskoph-designed layout for the first time although the familiarity factor won’t seem to be a problem for a player boasting of raw power off the mound, solid ball-striking and a magnificent short game.
“Her ball-striking is head and shoulders above lots of people. She’s long and she’s straight,” her caddie David Jones told LPGA.com after her Singapore romp that saw here battle back from four down off erstwhile world No. 1 Ariya Jutanugarn then beat Aussie Minjee Lee by two. “If we had a driving stat right now for strokes gained off the tee, hands down she would be No. 1, both last week in Thailand and again in Singapore. She hits her irons good and high, and she’s a good putter. So when you add all those things together, there’s not many weaknesses in her game.”
Whether it’s a drawback or a plus, Ardina and Saso still vowed to make the most of their rare chance to be ranged against the Seoul ace, along with the other bidders for the top $17,500 purse in the 54-hole championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and co-sanctioned by the TLPGA.
“While she (Park) has the edge in length with her height and power, the TCC remains a tough course to score on, especially the greens which are very difficult to read,” said Ardina, also noting the layout’s new set-up following a recent renovation that further makes it doubly challenging.
“I’ll try to cash in on my short game,” said the diminutive Princess Superal, who tees off two flights ahead at 11:20 a.m. with Ching Huang, winner of the ICTSI Champion Tour at Midlands last year, and Thai Chonlada Chayanun.
In between is another explosive group featuring multi-titled Yupaporn Kawinpakorn and former LPGT champion Renuka Suksukont, while a slew of others are ready to go and join the chase for top honors in the richest, biggest tournament on the seven-year LPGT calendar.